Guns vs. lawn mowers

Illustration of lawn mower man smiling standing with arms folded facing front done in cartoon style on isolated white background.

There has been an interesting back and forth on the Northland Brady/Protect Minnesota Facebook page about the gun giveaway promotion by a local Ford/Chrysler dealer. I wrote about this in a previous post. The dealer is now responding to the action taken by a group of people who felt the promotion was the wrong message to send to the public and consumers. It was not meant for any other purpose than that. What happened was more than a few phone calls to the dealer and to the Ford Motor company about this particular business policy. The dealer made claims about this being about the second amendment but the last time I checked there was nothing about a right to give guns away in a business deal. He also said callers were mean. I wonder if he means that the callers were insistent and emphatic in their opposition to the business deal. If we want to talk about mean, we can talk about the rude and offensive comments made by those who agreed with this business deal on the Facebook page. Many were deleted and blocked for that reason.

In the business promotion, car buyers had the choice between a lawn mower or one of two types of Ruger pistols. Several news sources have covered this story. This one from the Minneapolis based CBS affiliate WCCO media and also this one from BringMeTheNews.com.

I want to say that I have written several blog posts about guns and lawn mowers on my other blogging site- Here and  here. These were about arguments over lawn mowers. Are lawn mowers dangerous? Apparently fights over them can be. And yes, there are accidents and injuries due to lawn mowers as the owner of the car dealership pointed out as his excuse for why it was OK to give guns away. But as the article above points out:

Accidents are the leading cause of death for kids at just about all ages.

Although the leading causes of these accidental deaths include car accidents,drownings, poisonings, fires, falls and gun accidents, there are many hidden dangers that parents are less aware of that can lead to accidents and tragedies.

Death by lawnmower is rare compared to death by gunshot injuries. 95 deaths in a year compared to 30,000. The gun rights folks often point to other causes of death in their denial that gunshot injuries actually do kill a lot of Americans.

And I would like to include this article about the idea that, as one of the commenters in the story about the car dealer said, “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” The article, written in 2013 for the Armed With Reason blog debunks this gun lobby myth. It’s a long article but important. But here’s one section I love:

Guns may not kill people, but gun culture does.

6 Academic Responses to “Guns Don’t Kill People, People Kill People”

Lawnmowers don’t mow lawns, people do.  But if you want to mow a lot of grass in a very short period of time with very little effort or coordination, you’re going to need a lawnmower.   And if you want to be brutally efficient about it, why not get a John Deere semi-automatic riding lawnmower? The X758 is a popular model that can literally mow down entire fields at the push of a button, and can be picked up without any hassle at your local Walmart.

I’m belaboring the analogy, but the point should be clear:  Guns may not kill people, but people with guns do, and they do so more often and more efficiently than people without guns.  People do not behave in a vacuum. They are influenced by their environment, and when that environment is occupied by guns, people behave aggressively and impulsively.  Even the NRA is unable to follow its own strict logic behind “guns don’t kill people.” In searching for a scapegoat, Wayne LaPierre often accuses media, video games, Obama’s budget, and anything else he can find that isn’t a gun. The point being these fruitless attempts to shift blame are an implicit acknowledgement that we are influenced by our surrounding environment, an environment that includes guns.

So following this analogy, let’s talk about the clever language that has been used by the corporate gun lobby and their minions for many decades to deflect any talk about common sense gun laws. Lawn mowers don’t mow lawns, people do. Drills don’t screw screws into boards, people do. Saws don’t cut wood, people do. Hammers don’t pound in nails, people do. Vacuum cleaners don’t clean rugs, people do. Mops don’t clean floors, people do. You get the idea. How have these folks gotten away with their nonsense for so long? They make no sense but our leaders have listened to these folks and their myths to the detriment of public health and safety in our county.

If you read further into the article you can see why guns DO ACTUALLY KILL PEOPLE. One example given early on is the accidental gun deaths of and by children. Surely those children did not intend to shoot anyone. The gun was discharged by mistake. Adults make the same mistakes. Take this recent one for example where an Alabama man “accidentally” shot his pregnant girlfriend in the face:

The Gadsden Times reportsthat deputies were called to the couple’s home on Whites Chapel Road around 9 p.m. Thursday after the unidentified man called 911 and said he’d accidentally shot his girlfriend. When deputies arrived, they found the man trying to put pressure on the woman’s wound.

There’s just got to be more to this story. And in most of these incidents the gun owners get away with what they have done. Why? They were reckless and irresponsible with their guns. This is unacceptable. Often law enforcement is afraid to charge someone because…rights. Never mind the rights of the rest of us to be safe from idiots like this guy.

The other gun lobby myth is that more guns will make us safer. That has definitely not been the case. We are far less safe than most other democratized, civilized countries not at war because of our 300 million guns. Just ask the pregnant woman who got shot in the face if she feels safer now.

But I digress. Back to the above story. Did the gun shoot the pregnant woman? Did the man shoot her? Did the man with the gun shoot her? Would this have happened if the man had not had that gun in his hand?

I don’t have enough space here to list the many accidental shootings by children that have come to my attention just over the past few days but I can assure you, guns did not make those children safer. But I’ll post about just this one where a Michigan boy with developmental disabilities got his grandfather’s gun safe key and “accidentally” shot and killed a woman sleeping in the other room.  Why do these keep happening? And they do. More from the article:

According to his grandfather the boy “got up before anybody this morning at 5:30 a.m. He said he was in my pocket trying to get change and he found the gun safe key. It’s always locked up, and I always have the key on me.”

The grandfather said that when the boy tried to unload the shotgun he unintentionally dischargedthe gun.  The pellets went through a nearby closet wall and struck a 28-year-old woman who was sleeping in the living room.

The grandfather said “we turned the light on and we could see all the blood. It was only minutes. She was still breathing, but by the time the police got here, she’d passed away.”

The boy is staying with a family member.  The grandfather said his grandson is an apprentice hunter and has used guns before.  He said the boy “handled guns very safely and wouldn’t touch a gun unless he was told it was okay to pick it up.” He added that the boy “doesn’t realize what he’s done.”

The thing is, kids pick up guns no matter what you tell them. I have written about that many times before on this blog. I’m sorry but this does not sound like a responsible gun owner to me. Twelve year old children without developmental problems are barely old enough to handle the responsibility of guns. This man’s judgement was clearly impaired and now someone is dead. Avoidable and insane but part of our American gun culture and another American tragedy.

I would like to add this one for a particular reason. A 2 year old Virginia boy shot himself with a gun he found in his parents’ top dresser drawer. Now some in the gun lobby will try to deny this could happen and that little kids just won’t find those guns hidden away in dresser drawers. But this ABC 20/20 show proved that this is exactly what can and does happen. These are all avoidable and senseless shootings, not that any make sense.

open carry thugs
From Moms Demand Action Facebook page

Speaking of not making any sense, there’s the open carry folks who are out and about intimidating their neighbors. I do love this photo and article about the Indianapolis folks who think they are making a point by walking around in a residential neighborhood on Memorial Day week-end to show their “patriotism”. A photo of this classy group was posted on the Moms Demand Action Facebook page because, as it happens, the founder of that organization lives nearby to where they carried their assault weapons. Check out it:

“There’s not a thing we can do about it,” ZPD Chief Robert Knox said. “They’re exercising their second amendment right to bear arms and their first amendment right to peaceably get together and walk down the street like anybody else.”

“…like anybody else”? NO. Wrong. These folks are not like everybody else. The second amendment does not give people the right to do whatever the heck they want to do with their guns. This is insane and reflective of the American gun culture. Here’s one more article about this sleazy group of gun extremists. There are not too many words for this kind of tactic. All I know is that we don’t need people openly carrying loaded guns near the home of gun violence prevention advocates as a lark and clearly to intimidate people who work to prevent gun violence. It is not amusing. It is not funny. It has nothing to do with gun rights or the second amendment. It has nothing to do with a civil society. This is simply not OK.

And speaking of the insane gun culture, we should take a look at what else is insane with the stupid and dangerous gun culture pushed by the corporate gun lobby. Can anyone target practice close to homes just because of the second amendment? I say no. In Massachusetts (a reader corrected my posting that this was a California case)  someone thought he could. Let’s take a look:

“It was a piece of paper hanging between two trees with nothing behind it,” he said.

The bullet traveled 1,500 feet from a nearby farm, through a few thinly wooded acres, across a pair of frequently used railroad tracks, through the Costa home’s siding, exterior wall, bathroom wall and closet, before it lodged in the first floor hallway plaster.

Police responded to the scene and Costa’s home was evacuated on Jan. 14. The round pierced the wall about seven feet from his daughter’s head as she sat on a kitchen stool studying World War I.

Here’s the response from the pro gun side:

Gun rights activists have labeled the pending bylaw “anti-freedom” and “anti-Second Amendment” in an online campaign.

“We’re always concerned when we see things like this,” said Jim Wallace, executive director of the Northborough-based Gun Owners Action League (GOAL).

GOAL has sounded the alarm, urging its local members to attend a May 19 public hearing on the bylaw and reminding them to vote on June 1.

“It seems to be a pattern across the state,” Wallace said. “This has sprung up in a bunch of different towns, and it seems like an organized attempt to make things tougher on gun owners in the state.”

Initially, Berkley police said they could not press charges in the January incident at the Costa home, despite successfully tracking the round to a group of target-shooters on a nearby farm.

There is no pattern. This is all made up anger and total hypocrisy. This kind of intimidation should not be acceptable anywhere. The alarm sounded should come from the side of keeping people safe from stray bullets in neighborhoods. A few inches different and the target shooting gun owner would be singing a different tune and his pals in the pro gun lobby would be taking a seat quietly with the only alarm bells ringing at the funeral of a little girl.

And just one more, I promise. Speaking of the hypocrisy of the gun lobby saying that guns make us safer, check out this particularly stupid and dangerous incident:

Martinez’s older brother, Tom Cline, said Martinez died in the most senseless way.

Around 9:45 p.m. Friday, “Miguel was fooling around with his buddies. They were in possession of a gun and a bulletproof vest,” Cline said Saturday.

Cline said friends encouraged his brother to put on the vest. The three friends with Martinez assured him that he would not be hurt, Cline said.

According to the sheriff’s department, Lambert fired the gun.

“The kid had shot my brother. The bullet penetrated the top of his vest,” said Cline. “My brother was hit. My brother said he couldn’t breathe.”

According to Cline, one person ran for help. Two men carried Martinez up the bike path to meet deputies, but Martinez died.

“My brother did not deserve this death,” Cline said. “I want everybody to know Miguel Henry Martinez was a good boy.”

Cline said he believes his brother might have survived the shooting if someone called for help sooner. He said he doesn’t know where the bulletproof vest or gun came from.

Big OOPS. This is the American gun culture where things like this happen every day. It’s also the American tragedy.

Really, you just can’t make this stuff up. These folks may be “law abiding” because they passed background checks and because open carry and target shooting in neighborhoods is stupidly allowed by our spineless legislatures. These incidents are all examples of the “mad men” culture to which Dan Gross of the Brady Campaign referred in my recent post. Once we thought some dangerous and unsafe behaviors were OK but we found out differently. It’s just a matter of time before so many of these incidents happen that it will be impossible to avoid the obvious solution- changing the conversation about our gun culture and passing stronger gun laws that will lead to improved public health and safety.

It is past time for the insanity to stop. We are better than this. Let’s get to work.

Armadillos and the targets of bullets

armadillo

I’ll get to the Armadillo in a minute. But first….

A man walking a hiking trail in Arizona was hit by a bullet from somewhere in the distance. The bullet is still lodged in one of his wounded legs and now he is wondering if the bullet came from a nearby shooting range. From the article:

Sawyer said he was hiking the Max Delta Loop Trail around 10:30 a.m. on a Saturday, he didn’t immediately realize he was shot.

“I was like I don’t know what’s wrong; something’s wrong with my legs,” said Sawyer.

The bullet went all the way through his right leg and lodged in his left leg. He manages to make his way down the mountain and to a ranger station where he called for help.

There are two gun ranges north of the trail at the base of South Mountain. One belongs to the Phoenix Police Academy; the other is a private gun club called the Phoenix Rod and Gun Club.

Investigators say no one was shooting at the Police Academy at the time.

According to a police report, detectives believe the bullet that hit Sawyer came from the gun club, as does Sawyer’s attorney Garvey Biggers.

“We know for a fact there were three competitions going on, all ages were shooting that day, from children to adults… so if you have an inexperienced shooter, you could easily lose control of your weapon,” said attorney Garvey Biggers.

Sawyer’s legal team says the range is exactly 540 meters from where Sawyer says he was on the trail.

Is it possible for a bullet to travel 540 meters?

“Yes, no doubt about it,” said Biggers.

Of course, the owners of the gun range are disputing the hiker’s story. They wouldn’t want to be held responsible for flying bullets that travel far enough to hit innocent hikers on walking trails.

In my neck of the woods, we often hear gun fire at our cabin and at the cabins of good friends. There are more than a few shooting ranges in our area. People love to shoot their guns at targets or practice their shooting skills before hunting season or just for sport. And they are mostly safe. But guns are dangerous weapons designed to kill. Bullets travel far and often stop when they hit an innocent person at a distance. There need to be very strict regulations and safety practices for those who shoot guns at shooting ranges or those who choose to fire off their guns for fun on private property.

Remember this one? Florida law comes down on the side of allowing gun owners to shoot off their guns in residential neighborhoods close to families and children. Where is common sense? From the article:

That changed in 2011 when Gov. Rick Scott signed a measure putting teeth into the state restriction. Now local officials could be fined, removed from office and held responsible for their own legal bills if they’re sued over local gun ordinances.

In January, Volusia County municipal managers began communicating by email about the issue of the firing of guns on private property. Ponce Inlet Town Manager Jeaneen Witt wrote in a Jan. 10 email to South Daytona City Manager Joe Yarbrough that a resident in her city was setting up a shooting range on his property. Witt expressed her concern over the powerlessness of local governments to control the use of firearms and suggested lobbying legislators to set a criteria such as lot sizes and buffers.

This is the gun lobby at work “protecting” us all and it’s state legislators failure to stand up to the gun lobby.

Where is the right of people to feel safe in their neighborhoods from potential flying bullets?

It happens. This Kentucky woman was lucky she didn’t get hit by a stray bullet while using the bathroom:

A Lexington woman says a neighbor target practicing in his yard shot a bullet into her home over the weekend.

Fairshinda McLaughlin said she and her family were outside enjoying the spring weather at their home on Lexington’s outskirts Sunday afternoon when they heard a loud noise.

“I thought it was a bomb. I thought a propane tank or something exploded, It was that loud,” she said.

That sound was a stray bullet crashing through her bathroom window.

McLaughlin called the police, and officers discovered the source of the bullet – a neighbor about a mile away firing at targets in his yard.

McLaughlin said she was just about to go use that bathroom.

Seriously folks. Can we talk about this dangerous culture of anything goes with guns anywhere? I could provide many more such inane and dangerous examples.

And then, of course, this one went around on social media because it was so stupid and ridiculous:

A Georgia woman was accidentally shot by her son-in-law on Sunday while he was attempting to shoot an armadillo.

According to WALB, 54-year-old Larry McElroy was outside when he fired his 9 mm pistol at the armadillo. The bullet killed the animal and ricocheted off of its shell.

The bullet then struck a nearby fence, went through the back door of his mother-in-law’s home, through the recliner she was sitting in and struck her in the back.

Fortunately for all, she was not badly hurt. Bullets don’t know where to stop. Can we talk about gun safety reform?

Recently in Vermont, a 6 year old boy was doing some target shooting with his family when he was accidentally shot:

The boy, his father and two other children were taking turns shooting at a target with a .22 caliber pistol, under the supervision of the father.

While the boy was shooting, the handgun failed to discharge. The child subsequently lowered the still-loaded firearm, but before his father could intervene, the gun discharged. The bullet hit the boy in the lower leg, White said.

Some of my critics would tell me that it’s OK for 6 year olds to be out shooting at targets. I would argue otherwise. Supervised or not, 6 year olds don’t seem old enough to handle the responsibility of holding a deadly weapon. Guns and kids just don’t go together well. Numerous incidents of “accidental” shootings by children are reported every day in media sources. I write about them. I also write about how these can be avoided.

The first question I want to ask is if adults really think children can handle guns? The second question I would ask is why we want young children near guns? The third question I would ask is why children aren’t participating in the activities more suitable to young children like just playing, riding bikes, going to the playground, playing soccer or softball or swimming, etc.?

And one important question to ask is if there are guns in the homes where your children play and hang-out? The Brady Center’s ASK campaign is encouraging parents to ask this very important question. It’s not a frivolous question nor should it be controversial. Here’s why. Yesterday charges were filed against an Idaho couple who left unsecured loaded guns around in their home which resulted in one child shooting and killing a friend:

Prosecutors are charging Rusty and Ashlee Lish with one count each of misdemeanor injury to a child for the accidental shooting death of Noelle Shawver that happened nine months ago.

Shawver died on July 30th after being accidentally shot in the chest by another five year old at Lish’s Chubbuck home.

According to police reports Noelle Shawver was playing with another 5-year-old in the master bedroom of the Lish’s Chubbuck home.

Court records say people in the home heard the gun go off and when they went into the room, they found Shawver with gunshot wound to the chest.

Shawver was taken to Portneuf Medical Center where she died from the wound.

Investigators say inside the master bedroom they found the .22 caliber rifle involved in the shooting, a loaded 12 gauge shotgun with a round in the chamber, a loaded 7 millimeter rifle and a loaded Glock handgun, all unsecured and within reach of the children. (…)

“Even though the adults weren’t actors they provided the setting that allowed this young boy to go in and point the gun and pull the trigger,” said Herzog.

According to police reports multiple officers at the scene located several loaded and unsecured guns in the master bedroom area of the home, where Shawver and the other child were playing.

“It’s a horrible tragedy,” says Herzog.

Police say of the four guns found in the room the children were playing all were within reach, and no locks or other security measures were located on any of the weapons. Herzog says he hopes this case brings awareness to gun safety.

“The Lish’s are going to be in a position where hopefully they can do some good and increase public awareness about firearms in the home and overall the community can get some benefit from it,” said Herzog.

Will these parents get involved in public awareness about the risks of loaded, unsecured guns in homes? We can only hope. They are poster parents for the reason parents ought to use common sense and ask about guns in other parents’ homes. No one ever believes something like this can happen. But happen it does- too frequently.

We need to have a serious national discussion about the public health and safety problems presented by the over 300 million guns owned by Americans. In no other country is this a problem. Why are we not having the discussion? One answer is pretty clear. The corporate gun lobby doesn’t want that discussion because if the risks of guns in homes is revealed and discussed, perhaps parents will think twice about buying guns for whatever reason they do. Yes, some people believe they need guns for self protection. They must believe the horror stories of home invasions, the need for guns to protect themselves from national disasters, from some invisible enemy or whatever the gun lobby is telling them.

The NRA’s own Wayne LaPierre has been busy warning Americans about all of the dangers out there that should remind people they must have guns to defend themselves. And he’s not afraid to mention the beheadings and murders committed by terrorists, or other such awful things that could actually befall us if we don’t have our guns for protection. See it for yourself below in his words at the 2015 CPAC conference:

I wonder if the parents ( above) now charged with recklessness and negligence with their guns believed that the nightmare the gun lobby warned them about was actually one that happened because of their own guns not because of something for which they thought they needed those guns? I wonder if that father who allowed his 6 year old to shoot at targets because, well because……. thought his own gun would injure his own child instead of some invisible enemy lurking dangerously outside of his home.

Aren’t we better than this? We need this discussion about the risks of guns. It is beginning in spite of gun lobby efforts to stop it. Here’s a great article by Harvard public health researcher David Hemenway about the public health risks of guns:

So I decided to determine objectively, through polling, whether there was scientific consensus on firearms. What I found won’t please the National Rifle Association. (…)

I also found widespread confidence that a gun in the home increases the risk that a woman living in the home will be a victim of homicide (72 percent agree, 11 percent disagree) and that a gun in the home makes it a more dangerous place to be (64 percent) rather than a safer place (5 percent). There is consensus that guns are not used in self-defense far more often than they are used in crime (73 percent vs. 8 percent) and that the change to more permissive gun carrying laws has not reduced crime rates (62 percent vs. 9 percent). Finally, there is consensus that strong gun laws reduce homicide (71 percent vs. 12 percent).

Of course, it’s possible to find researchers who side with the NRA in believing that guns make our society safer, rather than more dangerous. As I’ve shown, however, they’re in the minority.

Scientific consensus isn’t always right, but it’s our best guide to understanding the world. Can reporters please stop pretending that scientists, like politicians, are evenly divided on guns? We’re not.

OK. The evidence from researchers and professionals in many fields agree. Guns in the home are a risk to those in the home. Duh. There is evidence. What are we doing about it? So far, ignoring it but it can’t be ignored for much longer. It’s time for a change in the conversation that can lead to a change in both policy and our nation’s fascination with guns.